Investigators pinpoint cause of carbon monoxide leak that sickened 50

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A carbon monoxide leak that sent dozens of people to the hospital over the weekend was caused by a malfunctioning boiler, fire investigators said Monday.

About 250 people were attending an event Saturday night at Holy Ghost Beneficial Brotherhood on North Phillips Street when a woman passed out in the bathroom. When first responders arrived on scene, they noticed CO detectors they carry on their equipment bags showed high levels of carbon monoxide.

A total of 50 people sought treatment following the incident, including 26 people who were transported to the hospital by ambulance.

East Providence Fire Capt. Kenneth Botelho told Eyewitness News that the building inspector determined the source was a gas-fired boiler in the basement that needed to be cleaned. He said the air vent was blocked, allowing carbon monoxide to flow into the building.

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VITAL INFORMATION: Carbon Monoxide Safety »

Eyewitness News spoke with Nelson Almeida Monday, a member of the Portuguese club. He said his parents were both inside Saturday night during the incident.

“If our friend didn’t pass out and rescue didn’t come in on time, it could have been a lot worse,” he said. “It kind of hurts a little bit. You know, you’re there since a kid, you trust a club.”

A National Grid spokesperson says the boiler was “red-tagged,” and gas was cut off to the heating unit pending repair and a city inspection.

Rhode Island law only requires carbon monoxide detectors in residential buildings, but Almeida says as a paying member of the club he expected the leadership to install detectors anyway.

“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer,” Almeida said. “They’re ultimately responsible for having things maintained.”

The carbon monoxide levels inside the hall were about 300 PPM, which according to officials would cause a person to start feeling symptoms such as a headache and nausea within a few hours.

Annie Shalvey contributed to this report. 

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